When It Is Not a Job

“I often think about dogs when I think about work and retirement. There are many breeds of dog that just need to be working, and useful, or have a job of some kind, in order to be happy. Otherwise, they are neurotically barking, scratching, or tearing up the sofa. A working dog needs to work. And I am a working dog.”
― Martha Sherrill

A few weeks ago a friend commented that I was working hard on my blog.

Funny. Until he said that, I never thought of my storytelling as work. The writing was something I always wanted to do. The only work I had to do was find ways to deal with the fear of failure.

Until I started writing, I was pretty lost in this world called retirement. Even on days like to today, when I discard more than I write, I am happy to be sitting in at my desk. My afternoons are filled with searching memories with haphazard methods resembling scavenger hunts. After enough successful finds, I scramble to find words I hope enable me to tell my stories in some sort of coherent manner.

I understand that there will be days when the ideas are short ones. I’m okay with that.

It’s days like today when I thank God for people like Rabbi Naomi Levy who write such beautiful prayers I can share. And photographers like Linda Larson Hoopes, who allow me to share their photos she’s posted on the IOWA Abandoned Images Facebook page. Thank you, Linda.

I’ve turned to Rabbi Levy often these past few months as I’ve questioned what was next for me. This is a short prayer from her book, Talking to God.

May you receive an answer that will bring you joy and peace. May God be with you, may health and strength sustain you, may nothing harm you, may wisdom and kindness enrich you, may blessings surround you now and always.  Amen.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace Y’all.

With the Help of Friends

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves  

 

It is a very cold and blustery day here in the hill country of Texas. It is a good day for thinking about things. It’s days like today when I miss my friends who are now scattered near and far. I am so grateful for each special and unique person who is part of my little circle of friends–the precious new mixed in with the beloved old.

My photo today is borrowed from my friend, Jane “Olson” Fredberg. Thank you, Jane, for being one of those souls who has been part of my life since junior high. We were classmates, sharing our common history of the loss of our mothers at an early age, followed by sharing your own cancer survival story when we were neighbors and I was one of those healthcare workers who were part of your journey.  Thank you for allowing me to share your Minnesota sunset and for being one of my beloved old friends.

I am blessed to have many friends who take their time to read and support me as I learn and grow as a writer/author. The mere thought of putting my words out there paralyzed me for a very long time. It is your encouragement that helps guide and stokes my hesitant passion. Thank you. I am grateful to you all every single day.

“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I am…

B…simply being…

Wishing you all many blessing and love.

Peace

 

 

In the Comfort of Trees

 

For most of my life, I’ve lived in houses surrounded by trees. When I was very young, our house had huge old Elm trees in front that would sway and creak each time the wind blew. I remember those trees and many other Elms in the neighborhood dying from Dutch Elm disease. It was so sad to see those trees systematically cut down. After the trees were gone, the whole character of our street changed. The winds no longer had those lofty trees to strum through, the varied moans and complaints voiced by each tree were silenced forever. Our street looked and felt empty.

When I was older, we moved to a house that had two crab apple trees in front. They were small compared to those Elms. But, for a kid who was–and is–afraid of heights–they were the perfect size for climbing.

I’d climb them most days–alternating between the two so my view of the “world” changed. I shared the wear and tear on the trees between the two of them. They were accommodating, always open and protective, allowing me to escape into their branches. Whatever craziness was going on, I knew I could sit concealed in those branches, feeling safe and supported by the rough and sturdy limbs. No matter what, my trees were always there.

Several years ago I went back to the house on fourth street–the house with the crab apple trees. I went alone and no one knew I would be there. It was a detour for me–made to give that part of my life some sort of closure I never had when I was younger.

It was a hard vision to take in–my old house barely standing–the trees that had always been there for me–gone.

When we moved to Texas, I discovered and fell in love with the oak trees of central Texas. They are very special and very different from any tree I’ve ever met before. They have a life force to them that I cannot put into words.

As I searched for my own words, I found a quote attributed to Hermann Hesse that says it so well.

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more, I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs, the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfill themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness, and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust, I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
― Hermann Hesse, Bäume. Betrachtungen und Gedichte

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Seeing the Good

“You have a unique gift to offer this world. Be true to yourself, be kind to yourself, read and learn about everything that interests you and keep away from people who bring you down. When you treat yourself kindly and respect the uniqueness of those around you, you will be giving this world an amazing gift… YOU!”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

My frustrations of this week helped me to do a hard reset on how I live and experience my day.  Maybe I needed to get that negativity out in order to make room for some positive things. Whatever the reason, I now feel more in control, back to my so-called “normal,” and ready to move on.

As we begin our weekend, join me in focusing on the good around us. If you find yourself feeling like I was earlier this week, failing to find anything even close to “good,” take this opportunity to become the good you were searching for.

I now have a deeper understanding of the fact I must see and believe the good in myself before I can see it in others. I was reminded of the importance and encouraged to continue reading, writing, and learning about myself so I can share my life experiences with others. I realized as I share, I am helping others searching for answers to questions that have shadowed us all most of my lives.

As this week comes to a close, I acknowledge and affirm my intention to seek and see the good.

“For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.

We leave you a tradition with a future.
The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete.
People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed.
Never throw out anybody.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

Your “good old days” are still ahead of you, may you have many of them.”
― Sam Levenson, In One Era & Out the Other

I am…

B…simply being…

I love you and wish you a blessed weekend.

Peace

Many thanks, Cyndi Mead, for allowing me to share your beautiful photo posted to Iowa Abandoned Images Facebook page. 

 

 

Lesson vs Hassle

“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden  

I had an “ah-ha” moment yesterday. It bubbled to the surface as I wrote my morning pages. It involves my meltdown over medications prices.

What if I’d seen that whole series of encounters and interactions as a “learning experience” instead of a hassle?

It should be called a lesson since that is exactly what it was.

I am still learning this world or retirement and how this status changes things in my new world. That entire day gave me some valuable insight, a very important thing since I will celebrate my 65th birthday this year. Every person I spoke to or met that day was incredibly helpful and informative. Everyone took extra time with me, explaining things, one kind soul even grabbed a sticky note and a pen so she could share very specific information with me.

Because I chose to focus on the inconvenience of it all, I missed the fact that, thanks to this long and arduous experience, I’d learned how to navigate through this  process, ensuring, at the very least, better odds of success next time.

Gracious God, in the busy-ness of my day, I sometimes forget to stop to thank you for all that is good in my life.

My blessings are many and my heart is filled with gratefulness for the gift of living, for the ability to love and be loved, for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of creation, for sleep and water, for a mind that thinks and a body that feels.

I thank you, too, for those things in my life that are less than I would hope them to be. Things that seem challenging, unfair, or difficult. When my heart feels stretched and empty, and pools of tears form in my weary eyes, still, I rejoice that you are as near to me as my next breath and that in the midst of turbulence, I am growing and learning.

In the silence of my soul, I thank you most of all for your unconditional and eternal love.
Amen

~Rabbi Naomi Levy~

I am…

B…simply being…

Be kind to yourself and others, my dear friends, remembering how precious you are and how very much you are loved.

Peace

Thanks again today, my friend, Kimberlee Salimeno, for granting me the use of another one of her wonderful pictures. I love you.

 

Stop with the Small Stuff

“Things you may take for granted, other people are praying for”
― Marlan Rico Lee

Yesterday I ranted on and on about the cost of prescription drugs. I was frustrated and I was angry about the whole process. From working with the physician to secure the best medication for me to gathering all my new insurance information to presenting all of that to the pharmacy, I was unprepared for more roadblocks.

I needed to vent. You, my friends, were front and center.

After all that, I came across a letter written by Holly Butcher, a young Australian woman who died last week from Ewing’s Sarcoma. She was only 27 years old. Her family shared her letter of advice online. This is part of her letter:

“I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bull—,” she wrote.

Hol, as she was known to family and friends, implored those reading to not get preoccupied with the little things and to appreciate every moment in a life that will lead to only one final fate.

“I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go,” wrote Butcher. “It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog.

This certainly made me stop…think…and let my frustrations go. Once again, I’d had found a new teacher just when I needed one.

Thank you, Holly, for giving me and many others this important and much needed gift and insight.

God bless you and your family.

I am…

B…simply being…

Wishing you all love and many blessings.

Peace

My thanks to my friend, Kimberly Salimeno, for sharing her beautiful picture with me. 

 

 

 

Breathe

“Dear Lord, I ask that you help me make it through today with patience, understanding, and calmness in my heart. I ask that you replace any darkness in my life with light and my frustrations with joy. I ask these things in Jesus’s name, amen.”
Ron Baratono, The Writings of Ron Baratono

Today has been a challenge.

I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to fill a prescription.

I’ve failed. I’m frustrated. I’m angry.

The cost of prescriptions I once filled for nominal cost now cost hundreds of dollars. It is insane.

I finally had to stop for the day, leaving it to the physician to re-write the prescription in a way that will enable me to use the coupon he gave me. If I cannot use the cost savings of that coupon, I’ll no longer take the medication.

How does anyone afford the cost of medications in today’s marketplace? The drugs I take are not luxury drugs. Their use would definitely make my life better. With them, I won’t be walking around looking as if I’m going through some delayed adolescence. I never had serious acne. Now, thanks to my genetics, I’ve developed Rosacea, a skin condition that causes inflamed skin and acne. For months, it’s been angry and flaring. After seeing a dermatologist, I was encouraged and hopeful he’d found a way to help.

Even with his years of experience, we are failing.

My complaint is silly compared to the serious problems many others face in today’s healthcare arena.

If I wasn’t so angry, I’d be embarrassed.

Okay…take a deep breath–take another–take one more…

I’m going to follow my Mom’s quiet words, “Barbie, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.”

Thanks, Mom. I’m going to take heed and head for a glass of wine.

Calling a timeout for this girl scout.

“Frustration is an interesting emotional state, because it tends to bring out the worst in whoever is frustrated. Frustrated babies tend to throw food and make a mess. Frustrated citizens tend to execute kings and queens and make a democracy. And frustrated moths tend to bang up against lightbulbs and make light fixtures all dusty.”
Lemony Snicket, The Wide Window

I am…

B…simpling being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

 

Seekers

…what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.  

Oprah Winfrey

Listening to Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech at last night’s Gold Globes was inspiring, her words encouraging me to continue on this journey of telling my own stories.

I’m still unsure where this path will take me.  I’m wary of what I may uncover and wonder if some questions are best not answered.

My search criteria are simple and have defined my needs.

In order to find my own inner peace, I must and will continue to read and write, staying aware, getting feedback from my head, my heart, and most of all, my gut. This is my investigation of my life–I am my only true witness.

I’m not alone in this search. There are other cautious, weary travelers walking toward the unknown. We don’t speak. There’s no need for words. We’ve been together on this path before, few able to conjure up the courage needed to turn that last corner.

This time, it feels different. This time, we’re joining hands, risking a quick glance and faint smile, knowing, together, we can and will succeed.

“Maybe you leave because you long to know.
Maybe you leave
not because of longing
but because you must.
Or maybe you leave
simply to find the answers
you’ve held inside of you
all along.”
― Marisa Donnelly, Somewhere on a Highway

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, my friends.

 

 

 

 

A Little More of the Story

“Finished crap can be edited. Unfinished greatness languishes forever. The only bad writing is the thing you didn’t write!”
― Margarita Gakis

At times, I can be a slow learner. I shift into low gear, over-analyzing some lessons and life experiences, making them extremely difficult and complicated. Because I don’t fully understand what is being taught or tested, self-doubt creeps in when my guard is down. With fear at the reins, I start trivializing the whole experience.

I now understand I did this because in my mind I cannot fail–that is not an option. In order to maintain my family expectations, I pretended all is well. I’d work on this project and that project for a while, early on determining whatever I was working on was either too difficult or too simple. With that finely honed skill, I’d walk away from one task after another, allowing many to quietly slip away to sit alongside many others.

Over this past year, I’ve written about this behavior in hopes of discovering why I was such a star procrastinator. This dedication to self  helped me begin to understand some of the reasons. The more I wrote, the more I began to see the pattern of self-deception which grew into a lifetime of disruptive behavior.

My Dad made it very clear that I was expected to do my best. My kid brain interpreted that to mean I had to be perfect. I was far from perfect but I became very good at pretending. Pretending can be very tough for a kid. Before long, my act began to develop weak spots. Over time, I learned how to patch those tears and quiet my internal critic.

All I had to do was make sure I was always, always, always busy.

When new assignments came along, I’d work on them whenever I could make the time. Because I was so busy, there was never enough time. I’d fill what extra moments I had with something I wanted to do, pushing that not so favorite job further into the land of tomorrow. By delaying, I’d found a way to put myself in hyper mode, ensuring I’d get it done–but not until the very last moment. This methodology always provided the perfect excuse in case what I’d been working on was not done as well as it could or should have been done. Or, if the whole project failed, it wasn’t my fault. I just did not have enough time.

Over this past year, I began to see how my fear of not being good enough–not being perfect–evolved into procrastination. I saw, often in spite of myself, I’d always ended up doing pretty well. I may not have gotten that A, but I’d never failed. My procrastination was a symptom of my self-doubt. I understood I no longer needed games or excuses. I was good enough simply by being me–by being who I am.

You are always a valuable, worthwhile human being — not because anybody says so, not because you’re successful, not because you make a lot of money — but because you decide to believe it and for no other reason.”
Wayne W. Dyer

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

Thank you, my dear friend, Mary, for letting me borrow your birthday bouquet today.  I Love you.

Just Wait

“My mother always told me I wouldn’t amount to anything because I procrastinate. I said, ‘Just wait.”
― Judy Tenuta

I am a master procrastinator. So impressed am I by my great skill, I’ve actually researched this great art. In my search, I found this quote from one of my favorite authors:

“The scholar’s greatest weakness: calling procrastination research.”
― Stephen King, 11/22/63

Yes, that was not a good sign, I was now getting busted by my quotes.

I needed to find something to help me get something done. I’d become too proficient at finding ways to push things off until tomorrow.

What do I do and where do I start?

This is when I discovered MOOCs. What in the world are MOOCs? They are Massive Open Online Courses. They are free–unless you want a certificate of completion. There are many courses available on just about every subject imaginable. I began with a MOOC called Learning about Learning with Barbara Oakley, Ph.D.  This course was exactly what I needed. Each lesson taught me new methods of learning.  Not only that, this new way of learning gave me the opportunity to start something and successfully complete it. Completing something is a very big thing for a procrastinator. Because I found the entire course so interesting, I wanted to get all I could out of it.

One of the biggest things I was able to add to my brand new writer’s toolbox was the Pomodoro technique. By using this technique, I’ve been able to write and share my stories daily.

Let me share with you my Pomodoro technique.

Before putting my new tool into practice, I needed to totally commit to making my stories happen. I had to tell myself I was ready to step out of my own comfort zone. I was ready to put my writing out there and risk criticism. What made this work for me was the fact this was an investment in myself for myself. What anyone else thought was okay. If people read my stories and liked them, I’d been given an extra special bonus. If they did not, I was ready to let it go.

Using the Pomodoro technique has become my routine. When I sit down to write, whether it’s my morning pages or my stories, all electronic devices are off and out of reach. Any sounds that could disrupt me are silenced. As Professor Oakley points out in one of her lessons, music can be a good thing to have in the background. She cautions listening to music with lyrics. I’ve always studied with music. To prove or disprove this for myself, I did a quick experiment–playing music with and without lyrics. I was surprised. Within a few minutes of starting the playlist of songs with words, my thought process was distracted and I felt off, almost irritated. After switching to the instrumental playlist, my mind began to settle back down, I felt more at ease, my thoughts flowing smoothly along with the music. Maybe this was a reflection of my age. Whatever the reason, my background music is now instrumental, mostly classical or Celtic in nature.

Once I have all my distractions out-of-the-way, I set a timer for twenty to thirty minutes. If I am tired, I dial in twenty. If I’m feeling rested and ready, I dial in thirty. I’ve found a timer is important. Without that, I was always checking the time. Even with the timer set, it took time for me to trust that the timer was set and working. After a few days, my mind had trained itself to let go and work. For that twenty to thirty minutes, my focus is on working on my specific task–the ONLY goal is to work on this one thing for the designated amount of time. My focus is not on getting it done. My focus is on working.

Once the time has expired, it’s time for a reward. That reward is very important–take the reward you have set up for yourself. Whether it’s checking your email or your phone for text messages–do it. There have been times when I needed a big break in order to rest my mind so I can do a final proofread. These are the times when I go outside for a short walk around the yard or around the block. During these breaks, my subconscious mind is working away on the loose ends of my project. When I return for my next session, the words I’d been searching for are often right there for me.

If you’ve never tried this technique before, give it a try. It took me a good week to really get comfortable using it and adapting it to my specific way of working. Within a few days of continued success, I was sold. What surprised me was how each successful experience fostered more successful sessions. I am learning that nothing beats down procrastination faster than the sweet feeling of a job well DONE.

“Success is not obtained overnight. It comes in installments; you get a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow until the whole package is given out. The day you procrastinate, you lose that day’s success.”
― Israelmore Ayivor

I am…

B…simply being…

Sending you all love and prayers for many blessings.

Peace

 

 

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